TAMPA, Fla. — Forty people packed the U.S. Middle District federal courtroom here Sept. 28 to support African People’s Socialist Party Chairman Omali Yeshitela, African People’s Solidarity Committee Chairwoman Penny Hess and Uhuru Solidarity Movement Chair Jesse Nevel as their lawyers argued for the court to dismiss the frame-up charges against them.
Known as the Uhuru 3, they were charged as unregistered “agents of a foreign government” by President Joseph Biden’s Justice Department. Their indictment came nine months after armed FBI raids on seven Uhuru Movement homes and offices in St. Petersburg, Florida, and St. Louis, July 29, 2022. Similar charges have been used for decades to target militant workers, Black rights fighters, the Socialist Workers Party and others.
“It’s a victory that they granted oral arguments,” Hess told the Militant. All too often, courts simply deny motions like this.
“This case is about pure political speech and the right to advocate dissenting views. The overt acts charged in the indictment all relate to political speech and peaceable assembly,” Uhuru 3 attorney Leonard Goodman argued in their motion. “Every one of these charged offenses are protected political speech under the First Amendment.”
“The government here is using a federal criminal statute to prosecute members of an activist group for political speech and activism in opposition to U.S. foreign policy,” Goodman said.
“This is an assault on the idea that Black people have agency, that we have brains,” Yeshitela said to supporters and to the press following the hearing. “This case is not about whether or not I have a position around the war in Ukraine that was the same as what the Russians had. This attack was perpetrated against us because we have fought for the liberation of Africa for over 50 years.”
If the case isn’t thrown out by the court, the case is set for trial next February, Goodman said after the hearing.
“The government is trying to put people in jail for publishing articles in their own newspaper,” he said. “The Motion to Dismiss is important because people should not have to face a criminal trial for expressing their views, even if they are harsh critics of the government.”
Joining those demanding that the charges against the Uhuru 3 be dropped were Rachele Fruit, SWP candidate for U.S. Senate from Florida, and Laura Anderson, SWP candidate for U.S. Congress. Afterward they described the landmark lawsuit the Socialist Workers Party won against the FBI, which exposed decades of the government’s use of informers, burglaries, wiretaps, provocateurs and dirty tricks against the party. “In ruling in our favor,” Fruit said, “Judge Thomas Griesa said that after 50 years of harassment, the government found not one illegal act by our party. He ruled the SWP’s call for a socialist revolution is protected by the Constitution.”
“We call for dropping the charges against Trump as well. All of the cases against him are aimed at criminalizing his views and trying to prevent him from running or taking office if elected. We defend constitutional freedoms for everyone, not just those we agree with. The working class, and all those fighting for justice, need them.”
For more information on the defense, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (813) 906-9274.